Matt Mancuso - Class of 2010
I received my BS in Biology from Tech in 2006, and my BS and MS in Chemistry in 2010
(one in spring graduation and the other in the fall).
I greatly enjoyed the research I did as a graduate student, and I found the presentation opportunities available to graduate students at Tech a great enhancement of the experience of doing that research. I got to present my work at Pittcon in 2009 and Experimental Biology in 2010. Getting to share what I was working on in a solitary endeavor on a niche topic was gratifying. I also had the opportunity to mentor a few undergrads with research and presentation at these same events. I particularly remember coaching one who was terrified of public speaking, and I was able to support him through what was for him a tough presentation. It's important for students to get to share ideas and have the chance to connect with other people doing work in the field, both as an undergrad and graduate student.
When we were still living in Tennessee, I had been talking about starting a distillery. When absinthe came back on the American market after a change in federal regulation in 2007, the products that were initially available were rather uninspiring. I knew that with my background in biology and chemistry, I could do better. I had moved to take a job at the University of Texas in a research lab.
Another Tech graduate, Christopher McLaughlin (BS Biology 2009), followed me to Austin
where he took a job working in the lab at a local hospital. Chris and I have known
each other since we were ten. Our paths crossed many times through primary, collegiate,
and graduate school. It wasn't until we were both living in Texas that we partnered
to start the company. It's called Derelict Airship Distillery. We filed the paperwork
with the Secretary of State in 2012. With the addition of my personal partner, Jessica
Leigh Graves, as our third business partner, we moved on to acquire a facility and
start the permitting process in 2015. That proceess ended up taking 22 months among
the various applications of state and federal permits.
During that time, we developed the Violet Crown Spirits brand. Our first shipment left the warehouse for our distributor in May 2017. Our flagship product, a green or "verte" absinthe we call Emerald Absinthe, is now available in 6 states. We followed it with a line of floral liqueurs: Jasmine, Elderflower, and Marigold. We just bottled our first round of mini absinthe bottles and are about to release our white absinthe, Opal Absinthe, in the mini bottles. We are always in R&D for new products, and expect to have at least one of them ready to launch early next year.
Every product that we have released has earned a medal at one spirits tasting competition or another, and people even call in to the distillery to let us know how much they like our stuff. Even more than presenting research to one's peers like I did as a graduate student, it's deeply gratifying to take all the knowledge and experience I got from being a student at Tech and turn it into a successful business that I and my partners are proud of.